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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (2 July) . . Page.. 2089 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

over a serious breach of the law. What steps are those in this place going to take about a serious breach of the law in respect of the Magistrates Court? It also is a serious breach of the law. There were 600 invalidly made domestic violence orders.

Ms Carnell: Inadvertently.

MR HUMPHRIES: I am sure, as the Chief Minister suggests, that those breaches were inadvertent. I am sure they were, but, according to the judgment of the Supreme Court, they resulted directly from a misreading of the law. We were told a couple of nights ago that ignorance of the law is no excuse. That principle was stated most emphatically by those on the other side of the chamber. I would have thought, Mr Speaker, that ignorance of the law on the part of magistrates learned in the law, appointed for their expertise in the law, is particularly no excuse.

Now, under the principles that the Government put on the table earlier this week, we argue that those sorts of transgressions are to be forgiven because in circumstances people make mistakes, and, where no malice or intention is evinced, there should not be any adverse consequences for the officers involved, be they the registrars and deputy registrars who might have made some of these orders, or whether they be the magistrates themselves who might have supervised or even made the orders themselves. We argue, as we argued then, that there ought not to be any adverse consequences for those people. But, with great respect, that is not the principle which the Assembly chose to adopt. The Assembly adopted a much higher standard on Wednesday of this week. It said that, where the law is broken, somebody ought to be held to account for it. Now, who was holding the officers concerned in this case to account?

Mr Hargreaves: What on earth are you talking about?

MR HUMPHRIES: There is no fun. Mr Hargreaves, go back under a rock and go back to sleep, - - -

Mr Hargreaves: What on earth are you talking about? Are you talking about the Magistrates Court? Do you want this passed or not?

MR HUMPHRIES: I am very happy for you to pass this legislation, and I suggest to you - - -

Mr Hargreaves: Well, wrap up and sit down and we will do it.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, if Mr Hargreaves fails to understand the significance of this matter, that is not my fault, but I think others in this place do understand it. I would ask others in this place to examine their consciences as to whether they are applying consistently the standard which was thundered on the floor of this chamber only 36 or so hours ago.

Mr Speaker, this is not a matter outside the power of the Legislative Assembly, notwithstanding the doctrine of the separation of powers. There is power under the Judicial Commissions Act, or possibly other legislation, for the Assembly to remove members of the judiciary on account of "gross misconduct". I think I quote the words from the relevant legislation accurately. Those were the very words that were used

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